PAYING the penalty has been a reoccurring theme for Southend United this season.

But on Saturday there was a twist to the trend as the Shrimpers secured a vital 2-0 victory against Oldham Athletic at Roots Hall.

Phil Brown’s side had struggled to score from the spot in recent weeks, missing four from five during an unsuccessful sequence which resulted in a succession of points being squandered.

However, it was a different story at the weekend as right-back Jason Demetriou confidently stepped forward to fire Southend in front with a well-taken penalty.

And it was the visitors instead who found themselves in a spot of bother as Craig Davies’ powerfully struck penalty was superbly tipped over the crossbar by Shrimpers goalkeeper Mark Oxley.

The stunning save – which actually saw the ball pushed out of the ground – maintained Blues’ momentum in the match and also enabled them to continue their fine record at Roots Hall.

As a result, Southend remain the only team in League One not to have been beaten at home this season, with five wins and five draws from their 10 games.

That has seen them take 20 points from a possible 30 and, most importantly of all, the latest win saw the Shrimpers move up five places to ninth in the League One standings.

The sudden surge will boost everyone connected with Blues, who produced their best performance since beating Blackburn Rovers on the opening day of the season to easily see off an improving Oldham side.

The impressive performance was full of positives and fine individual displays all across the pitch.

Oxley played a prominent part against his former side, with his stunning penalty save, while right-back Demetriou was another key performer.

At the heart of the back four, Michael Turner was a dominant figure and alongside him Anton Ferdinand looked far more assured as Blues secured their first clean sheet in the League since the end of October.

But perhaps the most satisfying of all the defensive displays came from left-back Stephen Hendrie, who must have been more frustrated than most by the season so far. The Scotsman must have been expecting a long run in the starting line-up when Ben Coker suffered a broken leg in a pre-season clash at Colchester.

However, Hendrie was selected just six times in the League before falling out of favour and losing his place in the team to Michael Timlin, who is more naturally a midfielder. But, with Timlin serving a one-match suspension on Saturday, Hendrie was handed his first League start since September and responded by producing his best display so far in a Southend shirt.

A determined Josh Wright did likewise in midfield, while Marc-Antoine Fortune played a huge part in attack despite not really looking like he was going to score.

But, unlike the past few performances, Blues were able to take more of their chances and it was Oldham who struggled in front of goal, with the normally reliable Eoin Doyle missing two fine chances with his head.

That enabled the Shrimpers to get back to winning ways, but this level of quality and commitment must be the sign of things to come if success is to be achieved this season. Blues sit seven points behind the top six and their December fixtures will play a huge part in deciding their destiny this term.

For after visiting Bristol Rovers this weekend the Shrimpers face four of the top six teams in quick succession.

Whether or not Southend will have Michael Kightly available for those key clashes remains to be seen after the winger suffered a hamstring problem in Saturday’s win.

But the tough run of fixtures will identify if Blues have what it takes to sustain a realistic push for a play-off place and will show if Saturday’s improved showing was just a one off or the start of a team reaching top gear.